What’s the Best Way to Apply Sunscreen?

Kelly’s question…I wanted to see if you might have an answer for me about sunscreen and how to apply it. Forever, I have been told that you apply your products first – eye cream, serums, moisturizer and then your sunscreen is the last step before your makeup. Yesterday, on another well respected blog, Dr. Schultz from Derm TV, suggested that your sunscreen should go on first so it is closest to the skin and can be effective. He suggests that you skip serums in the morning, as they aren’t likely to work as intended. He also suggested that you apply products from the thinnest to the heaviest. Protecting my skin from the sun is my primary concern and if I am not using the products correctly or making them ineffective, I want to know the right way!

The Left Brain’s response:

You raise some interesting questions and the truth is this question is one for which science hasn’t determined an answer. Good arguments could be made for both methods of application. Until there is a definitive study, there is no known “right” answer. But take heart, there is not really a “wrong” answer either. Here is what the Brains conclude (with all due respect to the doctor) about these issues.

Sunscreen savvy

For physical blocking sunscreens (minerals) like Titanium Dioxide or Zinc Oxide, it doesn’t matter. They’ll work just the same whether it’s put on first or last. In this case, we recommend putting it on after your moisturizer just so the sunscreen doesn’t inhibit the penetrating ability of the moisturizer (or other treatment).

Chemical sunscreens (e.g. Oxycinnamate) are a bit different because the raw materials in the formulas can have an impact on the final SPF rating. That means if you use apply it after your moisturizer, you may reduce the SPF efficacy. So, Zinc & Titanium on last, all other sunscreens on first. Of course, you could actually solve the entire problem by using a moisturizer that contains sunscreen.

Serum uncertainty

As for the question about the serums… again, the science hasn’t been done but there is a good rationale for using them at night rather than in the morning. Many of the active ingredients are UV sensitive so they will most likely be less effective if exposed to the sun. Wearing eye products at night prevents this problem.

What’s your face cream routine? Leave a comment and share your thoughts with the rest of the Beauty Brains community.